Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Charlotte Wednesday to announce a $2.5 million grant from his foundation toward the city's efforts to fight climate change. It's part of a $70 million campaign to tackle a problem Bloomberg said Congress and the White House are ignoring.
Charlotte is one of 20 cities picked for the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. In announcements around the country just like this one, he's highlighting the efforts of cities and taking more than a few shots at climate skeptics in Washington.
“Fighting climate change and growing the economy hand-in-hand is what this is all about. And that's something mayors understand even though the White House and Congress clearly do not,” Bloomberg said.
The foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, invited the nation's 100 largest cities to apply for what's described as a two-year "accelerator" to help cities carry out plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Eighteen other cities have been announced so far: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Saint Paul, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.
Bloomberg made the announcement on a stage at UNC Charlotte Center City, with the skyline behind him and Mayor Vi Lyles beside him.
“Our team really was impressed by your bold goals, from installing solar panels on the roofs of more than 40 firehouses to trading in fleets of gas-powered government vehicles in exchange for electric ones,” he told Lyles.
Charlotte is among a growing number of cities that have pledged to carry out the Paris Climate Agreement, even though President Trump has said he will pull the U.S. out. On Monday, the Charlotte City Council unanimously approved a Strategic Energy Action Plan — a sort of blueprint to help the city reach its goals.
City Sustainability Director Rob Phocas said those goals include:
“By 2030, our municipal buildings and fleet will be powered by zero-carbon energy. And then we have a goal for 2050 that the average Charlottean will be emitting less than two tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year,” Phocas said.
He admits the latter is a big goal over the next 32 years. Charlotteans currently emit about 12 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, from driving, heating and cooling and other activities powered by fossil fuels, Phocas said.
Phocas said the money will let the city hire an extra employee in the Sustainability Office for the next two years. The program also comes with training and technical assistance, and a chance for Charlotte to collaborate with the other cities on new ideas for fighting climate change.
And while Bloomberg used his Charlotte appearance to criticize President Trump, he was not about to break any political news. Asked by a reporter if he might return to Charlotte as part of a presidential campaign, he said only that he'd definitely come back for the coffee.